Category Archives: Featured Stories

Faith United Church in Oswego unveils murals

By Ashley M. Casey

Instead of the usual processional out into the lobby for coffee, members of the flock of Faith United Church in Oswego filed into the children’s Sunday school wing to celebrate eight murals painted by a churchgoer.

The Rev. Roger Martin led a prayer to bless the rich paintings that depicted various scenes in the life of Jesus.

“We ask your blessing, O Lord, on these images of stories we have known for years and yet now perceive in new ways,” the congregation read. “May they stir our minds, both young and old, to see your Words in a new light.”

Barb Sheldon of Oswego, who has taught art at Mexico High School for 28 years, painted the murals over a period of about eight years. Students in Faith United’s Sunday school assisted in painting the doors and lettering the titles and Bible verses. Her husband, Craig, worked on the borders of the murals.

“One Sunday, people were talking about gifts they could give to the church,” Sheldon recalled of the project’s origins. She said that the original concept was to guide Sunday school students in creating the murals so they could better understand Bible stories, but it evolved into something more for her.

Sheldon said that she and her husband, Craig, adopted two daughters from China: Hannah, now 14, and Libby, now 10. After the passing of her own parents, Sheldon reflected on the legacy she wanted to leave her own daughters.

“I just thought about (my mother) and what she’d taught me. Even though she wasn’t around, she was there,” Sheldon said. “I wanted to leave it to Hannah and Libby.”

The other children of the congregation were on Sheldon’s mind too. Ever the perfectionist, she had to set aside her ideas about continually tweaking the murals.

“When I look at these walls, I see it’s for the kids. I see things I want to change, but I let it go,” she said. “It is for God and it’s not about me.”

Sheldon sought the advice of pastor Martin and other church members on which verses to depict.

“The first one she did was the manger scene, which is traditional,” Martin said. He said his favorite was “Stilling the Storm,” the smallest of the murals.

“It’s on its own little side of the door by itself. It’s a wonderful place to get kids to focus in on,” he said.

Martin called the process of watching Sheldon’s work interesting.

“Oftentimes, Barb will be in worship and all of a sudden she’ll just sneak out (to paint),” he said. “It’s wonderful to behold.”

Both Martin and Sheldon recounted the story that Pat Sivers, a petite churchgoer, requested the story of Jesus visiting Zaccheus, a similarly diminutive person. Sheldon included a small goldfinch in her painting to represent Sivers.

Sheldon said her favorite mural is the one that depicts Jesus’ baptism.

“It’s all from here,” she said, tapping her head. She said the other murals were inspired in part by depictions from other artists. “I didn’t take bits from things I’d seen. I like how he’s reflected in the water.”

She included a basket of fish and a basket of bread in this painting as an allusion to Jesus’ other stories. “I put those things there so they could share with the kids and teach them how Jesus provides,” she said.

As for future murals, Sheldon is taking a break. She and the children are currently working on a depiction of Noah’s ark for one of the classrooms, but she has slowed work on that because she wanted to take a different direction with it.

“At this point, she really needs to have an opportunity to stop for a bit, take a step back and have a look-see,” Martin said. He expressed a desire for more murals in the future, however. “Our Sunday school is beginning to grow. I’m hoping that someone will say, ‘Barb, we need a picture of this to reinforce this idea.’”

As for Sheldon, she said she is grateful that her faith has helped her throughout the hardships in her life. She hopes her paintings inspires the same in those who see them.

“They’re not the Sistine Chapel, but hopefully somebody can learn from them.”

Faith United Church is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America and the United Church of Christ. It is located at 12 Mark Fitzgibbons Drive in Oswego. For more information, visit

List of murals:

Manger – Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus in the Temple – Luke 2:41-50

Baptism – Luke 3:21-22

Stilling the Storm – Matthew 8:23-27

Good Shepherd – Luke 15:3-7

We Are Blessed, a silhouette of Jesus

Zaccheus and Jesus – Luke 19:1-10

The Names of God

ARISE ramp builders busy this summer

With the help of volunteers, the ARISE Oswego County Ramp Program reached a new milestone this summer.

During one weekend, volunteers built three ramps for three different families living in three different parts of the county – and they were able to do it twice.

If additional volunteers lend a hand, there’s still time left to help more families before winter hits.

So far this year, the Oswego County Ramp Program has helped many local Oswego County families reclaim access to their homes.

Earlier this month, ARISE built a ramp for a couple who has not been able to leave their home for over two years. With the ramp in place, they’ll be able to resume everyday activities like going to the grocery store or just enjoying the crisp fall air from their front yard.

With more than 60 families on the waiting list, ARISE will continue to build ramps for as long as the weather permits. However, in order to help as many families as possible before the end of the year, more volunteers are needed.

Construction experience is a plus but not necessary. If you’d like to volunteer or make a donation to help ARISE purchase more construction materials, email Kris Rabideau, ARISE Housing Advocate/Ramp Coordinator, at or

Volney public hearing on overriding state tax cap Oct. 10

By Scott Allardice

It looks like the town of Volney may be raising taxes in 2014 in excess of the state-mandated cap on property tax increases.

But it only looks that way, said Supervisor Dennis Lockwood.

Revenues from a new water district in the town are expected to boost Volney’s income over the tax cap number; which is 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapolli recently set the tax cap at 1.66 percent for the 2014 budget year.

The new water district includes County Route 45, McDougall Road and part of County Route 6.

“The rest of it might be less than 2 percent,” Lockwood said, referring to the rest of the town’s 2014 spending plan.

Town officials are in the midst of the 2014 budget process this month and next, and must adopt a final 2014 spending plan by Nov. 20.

But with the anticipated “excess’ spending, the town is required to adopt a resolution to override the state spending cap.

There will be a public hearing on the tax cap override resolution at 5 p.m., Oct 10 at the town hall.

New ramp built at Parents of Special Children

Parents of Special Children, Inc. recently had a wheelchair ramp built at its new office in Fulton.

The nonprofit agency,  funded through the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and Family Support Services), moved to a larger suite in June to accommodate its growing programs.

Parents of Special Children support families who are caring for individuals with developmental disabilities by assisting with reimbursements of goods and services that allow them to better care for their individuals.

Construction for their ramp took place Sept. 14 with the help of many volunteers and donors.  The project was coordinated by Dick Bonanno of Operation Northern Comfort and Theresa Familo of PSC.

The staff, board of directors and families of Parents of Special Children would like to thank everyone who helped make this project a success, including Operation Northern Comfort, Hannibal American Legion, Hannibal’s Poorman’s Snowmobile Club, ARISE, ARC of Oswego County and the many family and friends who volunteered.

“This project was a huge success because of the volunteers. Working with so many amazing individuals allowed me to better understand the dynamics of people,” said Parents of Special Children Executive Director Theresa Familo.

“Believing that the more you give of yourself, the more your community is going to flourish,” she said. “It is also incredible to see things from a different perspective.  Seeing how everything is put together, from beginning to end, is extremely interesting to me.”

Parents of Special Children, Inc. will  hold an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Oct. 16 for friends and families to visit its new office and use the new ramp.

For more information, call Familo at (315) 598-7672.

It’s pumpkin time!!



Logan Hilbert, 1, tries to pick up a pumpkin at Behling’s Orchard in Mexico.


It’s pumpkin time and farms across Oswego County have plenty of the orange fruits to buy.

But how the crops fared varies on where in the county a farm is located.

For instance, Will Ruby of Mexico said his half acre or so “look good” and the weather was great for raising pumpkins.

But Josephine Godfrey, of Godfrey’s Last Stand on Route 264 near Phoenix, said the pumpkins her family planted early in June didn’t do well.

“It was the wet weather,” she said. “We planted, they started blossoming and then we were getting a lot of rain.”

She said the pumpkins the family planted later, in early July, did much better. She said the farm will have enough pumpkins for its customers, but won’t be able to ship any to any other locations.

“We have about half a crop,” she said of the 4 1/2 acres planted with pumpkins.

Ruby said he planted his pumpkins late (beginning of June) so they are just turning orange in the field now.

Pumpkins are huge sellers this time of year the closer Halloween gets on the calendar. Most people throughout the region use them for either autumn decorations or carve them to make spooky adornments for their windows at Halloween time.

As pumpkin are grown lying flat in a field, they can be harmed by too much rain or not enough rain. Too much rain and either they won’t develop when first planted or they will be subject to mildew or rot nearer harvest time.

Cornell Cooperative Extension says on its website that another concern for growers are several different viruses which can cause plants to not produce fruit at all or results in poor fruit quality (size or color). Striped Cucumber Beetles and Squash bugs remain the main insect pests.

New York state ranks amongst the top three states (Illinois and Pennsylvania are the other two) in pumpkin production in the country with more than 6,800 acres of pumpkins produced with an estimated value of $24 million each year. Nearly all of these are for fresh market use for either decorating or eating. The pumpkin industry is highly variable with fruit ranging from quarter pound to several hundred pounds each.

Pumpkins are grown throughout New York state and are marketed through roadside stands, nursery centers and farmers markets and are also important in areas that have lots of agritourism. Included in this group are also other fall ornamentals such as gourds and ornamental squash.

News in Brief

The First United Church of Fulton is having its annual fall rummage sale from 10 a.m. To 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4 and 9 a.m. To 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5 at the church at 33 S. Third St., Fulton.

A $3 bag sale will take place Saturday from noon to 1 p.m. The basement boutique will be open both days.

The sale will include winter clothing, shoes, books, household items, jewelry, toys, collectibles and other items. Light lunch foods and bake sale items also will be available for purchase.


Main Street Wine & Spirits at 600 Main St., Fair Haven is hosting its second annual wine tasting to benefit breast cancer research and awareness programs.

The tasting will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday Oct. 4 and Saturday Oct. 5.  Stop by to sample The Purple Cowboy, a red blend from California, Washington Hills Late Harvest Riesling from Washington and some Chardonnay and Merlot from France.

The wines featured in this tasting all donate to various research, support foundations and awareness programs as well.  A percentage of the profits from sales for October will go to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Donations also are welcome.


The Century Club is now taking orders for its annual nut sale to raise money for the Phoenix Public Library.

Orders will be taken through Oct. 16. Nuts being sold include walnuts, pecans, cashews and chocolate-covered nuts.

To place an order, call a Century Club member of stop at the Phoenix Public Library on elm Street. For more information, call library at 695-4355 or the Century Club fundraising chairperson at 695-2232.


Oswego County Harvest Dinner set for Oct. 18

Two of Oswego’s best chefs will be creating six delicious courses for guests of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County’s Fourth Annual Oswego County Harvest Dinner on Friday, Oct. 18.

The dinner will showcase the quality and diversity of agriculture in Oswego County by featuring locally grown and sourced food from local farmers and agriculture businesses. The featured chefs this year are Eugene Batrak, Head Chef of The American Foundry, and Peter Belmonte, Executive Chef of Red Sun Fire Roasting Co.

Oswego-born Eugene Batrak is the new Head Chef for The American Foundry. However he is no stranger to the kitchen, serving as sous chef for 10 years to the former Head Chef, Emil Nymander, a great man and chef. Batrak has worked in restaurants since he was 14, both in the front and back of the house. He has a great passion for food and has also worked as a private chef in New York City. The American Foundry is located at 257 West Seneca St. in Oswego and will once again be the host of this annual celebration of local food.

Red Sun Fire Roasting Co.’s Executive Chef Peter Belmonte is a former Marine, turned award-winning Executive Chef. Belmonte has been a chef for 19 years and an executive chef since 1999 mainly in New York City and New England. His food has received seven Four-Diamond Awards by AAA and, while working at The Inn at Thorne Hill, that establishment was rated on Conde Nast’s Gold List twice. He left fine dining two years ago to enjoy life more. Belmonte joined Red Sun earlier this year and appreciates cooking with a more rustic approach. The Oswego County Harvest Dinner falls in line with what Red Sun’s approach to dining is, using seasonal and local foods. Red Sun Fire Roasting Co. is located at 207 W. First St. in Oswego.

Assisting with the prep work for the event is the Oswego County BOCES Culinary department. Students enrolled in the Culinary Arts classes will help prepare the local foods for the chefs to utilize in their dishes. From peeling potatoes and garlic to chopping onions and squash, the students will gain valuable experience in food preparation.

The Oswego County Harvest Dinner begins at 6:15 p.m. at the American Foundry in Oswego. Tickets are on sale now and must be purchased ahead of time. Prepaid reservations can be made sending payment to CCE of Oswego County, Harvest Dinner, 3288 Main St., Mexico, NY 13114. No tickets will be sold at the door. The event is expected to sell out as it has in the past, so make your reservations now.

The evening will start with a social hour, including a sampling of Oswego County beverages. Guests will be served a six-course meal showcasing the delicious and diverse agricultural products produces in Oswego County, followed by the guest speaker. There will also be raffle baskets featuring Oswego County’s finest agricultural products and more. For more information on the Oswego County Harvest Dinner please call 315-963-7286 or e-mail

Oswego County is a rural county, with a prosperous agricultural community.  The diversity of land allows for the growth of a variety of agricultural products including onions, apples, meat, cheese, wine, maple syrup, honey, berries, plums, peaches, and a wide variety of vegetables. Within the county there are at least seven local farmers markets, with one open almost every day of the week. The agricultural community in this county generates $39.4 million in annual revenue from 639 farms and supplies over 5,000 jobs.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County provides equal program and employment opportunities. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for the community through education that is valuable to the lives of Oswego County residents. For more information, call 963-7286 or go online to

Emmons joins Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber

Nathan Emmons has joined the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce as operations coordinator.

Beth Hilton, executive director. said Emmons will be responsible for organizing and synchronizing the activities of various areas within the chamber. Emmons has been involved with the chamber as a business member since 2011.

“Nate has skills and qualifications that are an excellent match for the position,” Hilton said.

Emmons is co-owner of Mother Earth Baby, LLC with his wife. He is the business financial and operations manager, which includes accounting, tax preparation, reconciliation of accounts and legal document preparation.

Prior to joining the chamber, Emmons was the assistant dean of students at SUNY Oswego, where he coordinated all aspects of new student and parent transition programs including marketing and communication strategies, assessment, event planning and execution, supervision of staff, volunteer coordination, business function and execution of budgets exceeding $450,000.

Emmons is a member of Oswego Network Entrepreneurs, board treasurer for Children’s Museum of Oswego and a community service coordinator for Boy Scouts of America, Troop 888.

Emmons has a bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University and a master’s in business administration from Syracuse University.